Dedicated co-op lineworkers fight snow, wind to get the power on for member-owners
By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
Even at my age, Christmas day is still my favorite day of the year. I know it’s February and the Christmas holiday was more than a month ago, but these winter days are a good time to pause and look back.
My Christmas was great. After all of December’s holiday parties and other activities, it was nice to disconnect from the outside world and spend the holiday celebrating the season. We got out of bed a little later than usual, fixed some hot cocoa, stoked a fire in the fireplace and spent the day with family and friends. This year we also caught a late afternoon movie and then watched some football on television. (I have to admit that the Broncos–Chiefs game did not enhance my holiday spirit.)
But while most of us were enjoying the warmth and comfort of our homes, line crews from at least two of Colorado’s electric coops were out in extreme weather conditions, working long hours to restore power from outages caused by high winds.
At about 9:30 a.m. on Christmas day, outage reports started to come in to Sangre de Cristo Electric Association in Buena Vista. The entire Arkansas Valley in Chaffee County was without power for about three hours before line crews could restore service. In the Wet Mountain Valley around Westcliffe, 65 mile per hour winds toppled approximately 18 power poles, leaving many families in the dark. Line crews from Sangre de Cristo Electric worked an 18-hour day on Christmas, took a four-hour break and returned to work on December 26 to finish the job and get the power restored.
The same windstorm also affected facilities operated by San Isabel Electric Association, headquartered in Pueblo West, and Christmas was interrupted for those line crews, too. The winds not only knocked down utility poles, but also impacted communication facilities, making it extremely difficult for the lineworkers to contact each other by radio or cell phone.
And in the weeks since Christmas, the line crews from several co-ops including, but not limited to, San Isabel, La Plata Electric Association, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Gunnison County Electric Association and Holy Cross Energy have dealt with outages as Colorado’s winter weather continues to bring snow, wind and ice to our state. Crews have been called out at night, during the weekend and at all hours to get the lights back on for co-op member-owners. It is part of their job; it is part of the commitment to their communities.
Looking back at the holidays, San Isabel Electric Chief Operating Officer Darryl Stewart said, “It was especially important for us to restore power and Christmas festivities to our members. But the wind had other plans and we have to always think about safety for our guys. It seemed as we got one problem fixed, another followed. It was a difficult outage because progress kept coming undone, but we kept at it until every member was back in power.”
That’s the dedication of Colorado co-op lineworkers. They will be out there, in the snow and the cold and the ice and the dark, working to get your lights back on. Whether it’s Christmas or the weekend or a regular Tuesday, the goal is always to keep the electricity flowing and the lights on, no matter what the weather brings.